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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Good Leadership, Bad Leadership: What’s the Difference?

In today’s world we look to people who have been successful for leadership insights. We inherently want to know what will make us successful, believing that good leadership is the key ingredient. Yet, this assumption can lead us astray if we are not discerning about the quality of one’s character and the application of wholesome leadership principles. After all, rather infamous people in history have been successful, and yet as history reveals, were very dark and ruthless in their practices, using people more like utilities than seeing them as individuals with families and a life of their own.

Good leadership can be measured by the quality of the followers we attract, and their overall disposition and personal states. If we think we are good leaders, yet those who report to us curse us when removed from our presence, then we are mistaken. This is why 360 assessments and Feedback Councils can help us to know where we stand, as we can receive direct feedback from others and avoid what Daniel Goleman calls “CEO disease,” in his book, “Primal Leadership.”

These are the foundational principles of good leadership:

1- Humility: making it about others and not ourselves. Having the charity of heart to make corporate goals and other’s success first before our own needs, wants and reputation.

2- Care and Concern: leaders have the fearful accountability to do right by other human beings. If we are more takers than givers in a leader/manager relationship, we’ve placed ourselves first and have limited our ability to provide care and concern for our staff. Leadership means sacrifice, putting others first. Watch any old war movie for clarity on this concept.

3- Matched Presence: this is another way of saying integrity, but without the hackneyed and shallow understanding of the word. Matched presence means that our personal presence and our professional presence are the same, in other words, the way we behave in private and the way we act in public are identical, creating authentic, transparent people; ones with integrity.

The biggest barrier to becoming good leaders is the belief that we are good leaders. When we surround ourselves with others who will only give us the good news (usually because we make it unsafe to do otherwise), and we fail to look inward at our own internal inconsistencies and injustices, or treat the people who are closest to us with the least respect, these are all indicators that something is awry.

Becoming a good leader is a lifelong quest, but the journey only begins when we are ready to be honest with ourselves, and with others, and recognize that we are a long way off from being who we should be. The road to being a good leader is indeed a lifelong journey, with many hazards and constant course corrections along the way. There is no other true path.

Coaching questions: Where in your self evaluation have you not been so honest with yourself about your need to grow and develop as a professional leader? What steps can you take to get candid input about the quality of your leadership, including your areas of need?

2 Responses to “Good Leadership, Bad Leadership: What’s the Difference?”

  1. TJ says:

    Very good insight. I also once heard that good leaders take people where they want to go, though they may not know it yet. So we often may find that a leader experiences periods when those they lead doubt or even criticize them, but eventually they “get it.”

    I think of the founding fathers, like John Adams, who led the country to separate from GB, though at the time, the majority of the citizens were not in favor of it.

  2. Dean Harbry says:

    You bring up a really good point, TJ. One characteristic of true leadership is the ability to have insight regarding the future, and bridge the gap between where we are today, leading and managing human behavior in its current state, and then cultivating the needed beliefs and behaviors to get the community to where they need to be (the right result). Albeit, with humility of heart.

    Leaders like this attract strong followers and accomplish great and extraordinary goals. Using your example, both you and I (as well as anyone reading this blog), have benefited from this very kind of leadership in John Adams and the rest of the founding fathers of America. Great insight—thanks so much!

    Best regards,

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